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Cersosimo's Home Technologies division takes top spot in CE Pro listing

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Our friends over at CE Pro Magazine came out with their CE Pro 100, a list of the top 100 custom installation companies recently, and Guardian Home Technologies, is again at number one. Guardian Home Technologies is a division of Guardian Protection Service, a super regional run by Russ Cersosimo, and one which we report on frequently. Here's the CE Pro story.

PSA, day 2

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I'll keep these updates all in one post, and time-stamp them, so your RSS feeds don't get slammed with a bunch of posts: 9:45 - The show floor is picking up here. I might have underestimated the booth count. It's more full on the back side than I thought. Something like 100 booths, which may be even with last year or a touch more. Hard to say. Had a good conversation with the guys at CelAccess, which is basically cellular-based access control you can control from anywhere. It's all web-based, with no software necessary, and they sell hardware, too, though they'll integrate with other hardware and OEM as well. Plus, you can white label the web interface that end users see, so you can resell the wireless access control as a service if you want. Their pitch is cost, too, as you can install one wirelessly controlled access control device for about $1500, instead of having to install a panel, etc., for one door or one gate. Plus, they'll manage all the cellular service stuff for you, buying the service in bulk and managing the cell contracts, etc. Not a solution for every door in a 50-story high-rise, but pretty good for a remote location, that's for sure. 10:15 - Have you heard of PDS? Apparently, they're the 11th largest PC manufacturer in the country, do about $150 million in revenue, and in November they bought a company called Vision Controls, a DVR manufacturer. So, in addition to all of their IT systems building business, they're not looking at being the server of choice, and maybe the system of choice, for the video surveillance industry. Essentially, why buy Dell, who don't necessarily understand video surveillance, when you can buy PDS. That's the pitch. Now they've also hooked up with NUUO, a Taiwanese NVR manufacturer I've written about a couple times that's really making a lot of noise. They're everywhere all of a sudden. The PDS guys say NUUO's "capture hardware is awesome," and that they integrate with more cameras than Milestone. I'm not taking that as gospel, but it's interesting, nonetheless. 11:30 - Heading over for the vendor appreciation lunch - they're kicking us out of the call - but I've been doing some great eavesdropping on integrators today. Just a quick selection - do these correlate with what you're thinking about your integration business? "We go in with the access and then sell the video, usually, not the other way around, so if your camera doesn't work with the access it's not really going to happen." "IP cameras are basically great indoor cameras, but they suck outside. They just focus on the back-end, they don't worry enough about the front end, the lens and the iris." "We're here looking for an RMR generator." "A video camera is worthless if no one's watching it." 1:10 - The awards luncheon wasn't half-bad, actually. The corporate entertainer guy they hired was a little too amped up for the crowd (he had us all standing up and high-fiving the rest of the table), but it sure went a lot quicker than the dinner they usually have and no one got sloppily drunk. I don't know how important the awards are, but I guess the ones that stood out for me were Samsung Techwin and Exacq winning the awards for new and rising vendors. That seems to jibe with my impression that the former is making a huge marketing push this year and the latter almost doesn't have to because people really like their video management software and how open it is. The exhibits open back up in five minutes. We'll see if everyone just goes and play golf or what. 2:15 - Talked with Frank Abram about how his new gig with Vitek is going. He said, going along with my postulation in the UTC post earlier, that they didn't see the slow-down until late 4Q, but then saw a major slowdown in 1Q. However, in March, he said they were at 95 percent of goal and April was gangbusters. Also, he said he keeps up with a lot of recruiters in the industry just because he's been in it so long, and he's seeing more people asking for good tech people than he's seen in at least 12 months. Definitely a good sign. He also theorized that the slowdown has been good for the industry as it's weeded out the camera companies, for example, that were just looking to dump cheap product on the market and weren't ready to support that product. 2:35 - Be on the lookout for iluminar if you need some IR illumination products or license plate capture help. They're brand-new and owned by Eddie Reynolds, who has been repping for another company for 14 years and decided to open her own business. She's got a small, compact product line, sourcing out of Russia and the UK. 2:40 - Do you know Aboundi? Essentially, they allow you to run IP over AC wiring, eliminating the need for switchers and what-not in the middle. Need to switch out some monitors and go IP digital signage with it? Give them a call. They're based in Nashua, NH, too, so I've got to give them credit for being fellow New Englanders. Also, they recently bought WebEyeAlert (here's Chelsie editorializing about them back in 2002, though they've been quiet recently), and so now they've got a packaged solution for Web-based hosted video management software. According to Hong Yu, the CEO and president, they create "one big happy family of LAN all running on AC." 5:15 - So, the last couple hours of the exhibit floor were a bit sloooowww, but nobody seemed pissy about it. There was a bit of tossing the football around (ScanSource has a whole box of footballs - if you're hear at the show and want to donate them to a preschool or something, I bet they'd give you a deal...), packing up early, and raffle giveaways that needed to call a few names, but I think that's pretty normal. I took the opportunity to watch a few integrators get a tour of WeSuite's WeEstimate software package. Maybe you remember me writing about this last May, but, if not, let me tell you that I can really see why this would help integrators who are struggling with bad estimates from sales people, are having trouble tracking the status of bids and jobs, or are just generally having a hard time getting good numbers on how they're sales people are performing. For example, if there's a certain type of job you do all the time, like a two-door access control system for a retail operation, you can package all the parts, materials, labor, etc., into a standard "job," and then use that as your starting point, with the ability to adjust the cost of the labor, the travel distance, etc., and be constantly seeing the exact gross profit that would come with an accepted bid or estimate. You can set bottoms on gross profit for specific items, specific subcontractors. You can allow some sales people to bid at lower gross margins than others. You can make it so no job is allowed to be estimated before an engineer takes a look at it. You can track when an engineer was sent a job, when it was sent back, and when the sales person actually sent it out. You can track not only jobs won, but jobs lost, and why those jobs were lost. Further, they're working with Sedona Office to make the two software packages compatible, so you're pulling pricing information from the one to the other. "This is great," said one integrator. "You can't screw it up." Finally, you hit a button and it generates a Word document for the proposal and even calls up your Outlook withe client's email already inserted if you want to simply email it off as a pdf document. You can monitor every salesperson's closing percentage, jobs in the pipeline, average gross margin per job bid, whatever you want. The guys I sat with were eating it up. That's probably because it's designed and programmed by former integrators, people who worked at SST and Antarcom, largely, so they feel your pain. Do you have salespeople who are using Excel templates they brought over from a former company with 5-year-old pricing on parts that don't exist anymore to do their estimating? You should call WeSuite. The only flaw I can see is the salespeople not going back after the fact to update the job status, especially on jobs they don't get. I could see there being lots and lots of jobs "in progress" that never go to sold or not sold because after a job is lost, who's going to go in an deal with that account anymore? Then you're constantly hounding sales people to update job status, etc., and they end up resenting the tool. Still, if it's top-down from management that it has to be done, it'll probably happen. It's a little like the way we track story status here at SSN. Basically, our process is great if everyone actually updates where a story stands, but when even I never do that until right before a meeting where we're going to talk about story status, what's the point of even using the story status tracker? It's never accurate until the meeting where you talk about where everything stands anyway...

Good signs for the economy

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I don't want to be too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but attendance here at PSA-TEC is better than I expected, with maybe 10 fewer booths than last year, and all of a sudden all of the noise coming out of the corporate world isn't bad. This (can't remember if you have to register to see that link) might seem like non-news, but UTC's simple reaffirmation that it's not going to do worse than it thought in 2009, is good news to me. The last time I wrote about them, it was because things were worse than they expected and they were forced to change course. Now, things haven't gotten worse, they think they've got a handle on it, and there's going to be earnings per share of $4 or better. It wouldn't shock me if they didn't even cut all of the jobs they were expecting to cut. With other reports about how the housing and construction markets are thinking about turning around, and Bernanke talking about "hopeful signs," it seems like 2009 might not be a total wash. Maybe the credit crisis made 4Q 2008 tank, the super bad 4Q made 1Q 2009 totally bottom out, but people saw that they were just being irrational, they're watching the stock market creep back up, and they're opening their wallets a bit now. That's the theory I'm going with in the short term. Oops, show floor just opened here - better go talk to people.

PSA-TEC, day 1

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Just a quick thought before I get into the TEC coverage: People who submit spam comments to blogs because they hope someone will be dumb enough to click on their links for free "c1al1s," or because they think it will help their search engine optimization or something, just might be the lowest form of life, somewhere below the trilobites that crawl away when I move the kids' plastic toys that have been sitting on the lawn for a week. Maybe it takes some ingenuity to create the software that trawls the Internet for blogs like mine, finds comment boxes that are relatively unprotected, and deposits the link text, but I'm pretty sure that many of the 100 or so comments I reject each day are typed in by real people who are "working at home." Get a blog and you, too, can enjoy reading comments like: "Interesting! I just had a thought like this myself. I'm going to go post on my blog about it." And then there's a link to some site called "CPA on Crack," which I really am tempted to visit (who wouldn't want to see an accountant all cracked out, really?), but am thinking maybe isn't closely related to the post I wrote last year about Day 3 of ESX. And even if you were fooled for a minute, and were tempted to approve said comment, you would soon realize that someone has made the very same comment on 15 others of your posts from 2008, and so maybe they didn't really just have a thought just like mine 15 times. It's hard to say. I've got to say, marking them all as spam is tiring, but even more annoying is having an email come through every time one of the spam comments is left. "Just filter them out," you say. But then I don't see the real comments come through that I have to approve and everyone accuses me of filtering out negative comments because I took all of 30 minutes to approve them. Seriously, if I find you, spam comment leaver, in a dark alley (or, really, anywhere), I will absolutely do everything in my power to kick you repeatedly in the shins with my cowboy boots. Repeatedly. Sorry, but sleeping in a hotel room where the temperature is regulated by an air conditioner that comes on when the temperature reaches a certain point (loudly), and then snaps off after five minutes, and does that roughly 300 times a night, makes me ornery. Which is too bad because this PSA-TEC show is great, per usual. Admittedly, I sort of blew off some of the educational content yesterday because it was mostly plugging-stuff-in training and I didn't get here until 1 p.m. and I was working on the NetVersant story and I was hungry, etc., but it's really hard to beat the networking events here. First up, they had Frank Abagnale, the Catch Me if You Can guy, who absolutely bored the crap out of a room at Security Growth three years ago, but was really quite good last night (and the room was pretty full - I was expecting many fewer people than last year, if only because I was able to book a hotel room here roughly 36 hours before the event started, but that doesn't seem to have happened). Someone here must have been at that conference three years back because Abagnale made a point of saying that he usually talks (long-windedly) about counterfeiting and fraud, etc., but that he was asked to talk about his life experiences and what we saw in the movie. That's the good stuff. Imagine being 16, fooling the world into thinking you're a Pan Am pilot, and logging more than a million miles sitting in the jumpseat of thousands of airplanes, spending just about every week in a different city. He only lasted about five years on the lam, eventually doing time in three different prisons, which probably sort of put a damper on those five years, but that must have been one seriously long rush. Then he got a little sentimental for me, but some of the room teared up and the place was dead silent when he started talking about the 35 years he's spent since then working for the FBI, talking about how he learned the value of family, the value of being a dad, the horrible devastation that divorce can wreak on a young kid (he ran away from home when a judge asked him to pick a parent), and how he's not proud for a second about what he did when he was a teenager. How he cried himself to sleep every night for those five years. That and the open bar made that a pretty successful opening reception. Then the PSA All-Star band hit the stage and actually didn't suck at all. Which is a major accomplishment, if you ask me. For the third year in a row, PSA's Tim Brooks (eastern sales guy) organized a bunch of players from the industry, including me, together into a make-shift band. Sure, there's a backing house band who are really top-notch, but for much of the night, close to three hours, we were actually keeping people entertained largely on our own. It's amazing what you can do with three-chord rock, blues, and country songs and a large amount of booze (someone beat me to one of my favorite lines: The more you drink, the better we sound). Great thanks to Bill Allen from Minuteman UPS (great player in general, but I loved his vocals on "Brown Eyed Girl"); Tim Miller from ASG (he was still riding high from Jazz Fest in New Orleans and was killer behind the drum kit); Paul Michael Nathan from Protective Security, who's really the rock star on the harmonica and basically fronted the band; Tom Hoffman from Flir (he had the best hat and tambourine); Daved Levine from SCI, whose bass solos were maybe the only redeeming quality of those jazz standards Tim Brooks insists on singing (just kidding Tim!), and everyone else who had the balls to just ask if they could sit in and then totally rocked it. And of course, big thanks to PSA honcho Bill Bozeman, whose idea this band was in the first place and who always sits front and center and actually watches the band and talks music with anyone who wants to sit down next to him. Damn that guy knows a lot about music. And for a genuine networking event where people actually have fun, that's a hard event to beat. I bailed at 11:30 or so and am feeling quite frisky this morning, thank you, but I'm guessing there are a few folks who maybe won't be down for the exhibit floor at 9 a.m. sharp. More later, including what may be some live blogging from the exhibit floor and some educational sessions. Maybe.

CSAA Five Diamond news & operator training in Spanish

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Just read through my issue of CSAA's newsletter Signals. Renewal time is here. If you're interested in renewing your Five Diamond status, you can contact Grace Fanzo at 703-242-4670, fax your renewal forms and UL/FM certifications to 703-242-4675 or send Grace an email. I got some press this morning that The Protection Bureau of Exton, Pa. has already renewed their Five Diamond status. I also noticed (with some pride, I might add) that I'm listed in the Central Station Operator Training Level I Graduates roster in the most recent issue of the CSAA's Dispatch. I still, of course, have not taken the test for the Advanced Level. I have just procrastinated too long and will need to go back and review all the modules before advancing and becoming an Advanced Central Station Operator Training Graduate. But that's okay. Thankfully, the training set up by the CSAA and the CMOOR Group allows the student to move at their own pace, and review any portion or all of the training before attempting the final test. Maybe next month. CSAA also announced that it has begun offering, through a partnership with ALAS (Asociation Latinoamericana de Seguridad), a Spanish language version of the training to better serve the world of security monitoring. According to Víctor Alarcón, director of operations at ALAS, the Spanish version is an important step forward. "We joined in a venture with the CSAA to translate and bring to Latin America the course they have been successfully teaching in Central Stations around the United States, for several years already," Alarcón said. "Because the Latin American security industry and central stations, in particular, are in great need of education. They want to become more professional and deliver a better service to customers. ALAS committed to this purpose and then we made the course available for Latin America." CSAA said a French version is in the works.

Westec buys again

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Rapidly growing video monitoring firm Westec made another purchase this week, grabbing Vyne Industries, which does video systems for the QSR (or quick service restaurant) industry - what used to be called fast food. This means Westec is in both McDonald's and Burger King - seems like there's a lot of installations to be done there. I was talking to their CEO, Kelby Hagar, at ISC West, and if you think a week in Vegas is bad for ISC, try two weeks for the McDonald's conference, where they bring in different regions for a few days each and string them up consecutively. That's got to be exhausting. I'd have more, but I'm posting from St. Charles, Ill., site of the PSA-TEC conference and I've got a few things to do, one of which is prep for the PSA jam session where I've got to actually play guitar and sing in front of people without embarrassing myself too thoroughly. I'll have a more in-depth report from PSA-TEC tonight and tomorrow, hopefully. I'm also a little grumpy because I can't make the AC go on in my room and it's 80 degrees in here. Grr.

ESX enlisting recruits for NextGen Monitoring Boot Camp

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Electronic Security Expo is holding a brand new, cutting edge, intensive, half-day educational offering this year on June 22 from 1-5 P.M. The session is called "The ESX Next Generation Monitoring Boot Camp," and is sponsored by SureView Systems. The boot camp will provide a comprehensive overview of the opportunities and requirements for launching next generation monitoring and remote management services. There's a whole world of RMR out there in cutting edge security tech and managed services, and this boot camp promises to whip you into shape. Speakers at the day's event include Jerry Cordasco who is the vice president of G4S' first U.S. monitoring and data center based in Burlington, Mass., First Alarm, Aptos, Calif. vice president & GM Dave Hood, and Kenny Savoie, director of operations for Lafayett, La.-based Acadian On Watch. I spoke with Jerry briefly, and have left messages for ESX Chair George DeMarco and sponsor SureView's Matt Krebs, and will follow up with any updates as they become available. The boot camp promises to be fun and informative and give security industry professionals an edge in the ever-evolving marketplace. To get more info or to register for the boot camp go here.

Women and security

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Monday, May 4, 2009
I've worked in the security industry for nearly four years and one welcome change I've noticed at trade shows and other industry events, even during that short time, is more women. The industry is starting to look more like America. That's always a good thing. (OK maybe just starting--I've been to several meetings where the only females in the room are me and Shandon Harbour , still that's better than just me!) Here's some fodder from yesterday's Globe about the benefits of having women in management. It's long and there are lots of caveats, but here are a few highlights:
For decades, women's advancement has been seen as an issue of fairness and equality. Now some researchers are saying it should also be seen in another way: as a smart way to make money. "The business case is so strong," says Alison Maitland, senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School in London, and coauthor of the 2008 book "Why Women Mean Business." "We need more women in senior management."
A few numbers:
Several studies have linked greater gender diversity in senior posts with financial success. European firms with the highest proportion of women in power saw their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 47 percent, according to a 2007 study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Measured as a percent of revenues, profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians, a 2001 Pepperdine University study showed. And, just recently, a French business professor found that the share prices of companies with more female managers declined less than average on the French stock market in 2008
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ASG buys a piece of NetVersant

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Monday, May 4, 2009
There have been some rumors about this as far back as ISC West, but I just had the first conversation on the record about NetVersant selling off pieces of the company. Joe Nuccio at ASG said he's closed on the Mid-Atlantic portion of the company. No details on the price, etc., but I'm hoping to speak with NetVersant management soon, and I may get a better feel there of how big a piece of the NetVersant pie this is. For reference right now, in the six weeks that ended Dec. 31, the Mid-Atlantic portion of the company did $420,000 in revenue, out of a total of $12 million for the company, according to papers filed with the bankruptcy court. However, everyone knows how bad the fourth quarter was, plus the company was in bankruptcy proceedings, etc. So that's probably not representative. Also, ASG told me they picked up 20 employees, but the salaries and benefits for that six weeks only amounted to $43,000, so unless everyone's making an average of $25k a year, something's wonky there. This helps ASG build their growing heft in the DC area, and fits right in with their footprint, so this makes sense on a number of levels, but this is also one of the better pieces of NetVersant's business, Joe Nuccio, said, with happy customers and a net profit even in that poor six-week period. I'll have more on the wire Thursday.

How manufacturers can use the web

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Monday, May 4, 2009
A little bit of a slow weekend in the industry, so I thought I'd get to something that's been kicking around my in-box for a while. Basically, I really like the way Bosch followed through on their ISC West presence with a dedicated spot on their web site. Hate to be a suck up, and please send me the spots on other manufacturers' web sites that are similar, but this is the kind of follow through that helps companies create an online relationship with customers (and they even have a little fun while they're doing it - imagine that: Fun in the security industry). Most manufacturers follow up their ISC West experience with a press release about how awesome ISC West was for them, with many booth visitors impressed with the new technology presented to them. As a reporter, it's probably pretty unlikely I'm going to run with that story since, a: I was there, and b: nobody really cares. But if you've got customers coming to your site anyway to look up product specs or sign up for training or to get support, why not have a bit on the site where they can check out what you were up to or follow up on something they saw at the show? Some of you may remember my discussion with Bosch Americas president Jeremy Hockham about bag inflation at the show. Well, good for Bosch for not taking themselves too seriously. They lead their ISC West recap by making fun of their own bags:
40 ways to use your Big Bosch Bag: a rain poncho to carry your friends when they are tired a collection bag for recyclables a walking Bosch billboard inflate for emergency floatation device a bag to hold all bags eco-friendly grocery bag carry clothes to donate to charity stand out in a crowd trick-or-treat bag for Halloween to carry gifts during the holidays potato sack sleeping bag under-bed storage for clothes, pillows, comforters diaper bag for OctoMom
Okay, so really only that last one was funny, but still, not bad - I'm fairly certain 95 percent of other manufacturers would have put out a press release about how their customers were finding "new and environmentally supportive strategies for maximizing the ROI (which was, ha, zero) on their show bag investment." But they'd have been serious. And I like the fast facts and stats and the picture of the people in the booth, etc. Of course it's self-involved and -congratulatory, but so what? They're preaching to the choir here. The point is to create a choir. When you combine this with their IP issues blog (not bad really, though they've haven't posted since April 15 and they can't seem to spell my name right even when they're linking to my story, and jeez, it's the first name you got wrong?) and their video site (they get a good amount of views for those videos, too), I'd say Bosch has one of the better web presences in the industry, especially among the larger established manufacturers. Got something you think is better or comparable? Send me a link.

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